When the Taliban assumed power in Afghanistan last year, West Kootenay Friends of Refugees (WKFOR) decided to sponsor an Afghan-Hazara family. The Canadian government set up a program called Operation Afghan Safety, which was designed to bring 40,000 people to Canada. Afghans who had worked for the Canadian government were given highest priority. Next were people who were considered at high risk because of their human rights activities.

In April 2022, an organization based in Toronto called Journalists for Human Rights contacted WKFOR to ask if they would take a family they knew of. The group of volunteers based in Rossland readily agreed.

In December 2021, the father of the family was arrested and tortured. He was a journalist and had reported on human rights abuses by the Taliban. His wife was a university lecturer and has her Master’s degree in women’s issues. She is also an activist at risk. They have two young daughters. The father was eventually released and the family escaped to Islamabad, Pakistan, where they contacted JHR for help. They have waited in Pakistan without status, in the hope of a new start elsewhere.

JHR was very helpful in preparing their applications to Canada. They have been accepted as refugees, passed immigration interviews and medicals, and as of this week they are “travel ready”. The final step is for the International Office for Migration to arrange flights. In WKFOR’s experience, this means that the family is likely to arrive at the Castlegar airport within weeks. WKFOR will be raising funds to support this family for a year. On October 2 at 2 pm, there will be a concert at the United Church in Trail with admission by donation. Tax receipts will be issued and all funds go directly to the family’s costs of living. Carolyn Cameron, Sarah Currie, Leslie Mahr and Hendrik Mendes have volunteered their substantial musical talent in support of WKFOR’s efforts.

WKFOR is also in search of accommodation for the family, and any leads would be appreciated. Please contact them at WKFORfunds@gmail.com

West Kootenay Friends of Refugees